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The Writing Process – Part Four – The Second Draft

The series:

  1. Research & Preliminary Plotting
  2. The Writing Process – Part Two – The Outline
  3. The Writing Process – Part Three – The First Draft
  4. Second Draft
  5. Third Draft
  6. Final Draft

The Story So Far…

I have a feeling there are more than a few people reading how much work goes into a novel before anyone remotely close to publishing looks at it has probably had an eye-opening experience.

While, yes, there are some who can and do “pants” it, I’m not one of them.

As I said before, my memory is poop and it’s easier for me to have a reference to work from.

I’ve shown you research, how to create a synopsis, and even gone through how to make a detailed outline and create vivid as heck characters. Or, at least, how I do it.

I even went into the frenzy of writing a first draft (I wait until NaNoWriMo), and what development editing entails (or, again, how I do it) so that once we get to the later stages of editing it seems to go faster.

And, honestly, that’s the key thing with writing.

The more work you do upfront means the rest of it seems to move faster. It’s like construction. You measure twice and cut once. Creating an outline and making sure that everything is good to go for the next milestone is basic project management – whether it’s creative or construction… or even IT.

After letting the first draft rest (again) for another month, I move onto creating the Second Draft.

Okay, Kristan, what can you possibly do now?

I am happy to say that with developmental editing out of the way, things will seem to move a whole lot faster.

The second stage of editing and drafting is all about style.

We won’t have to change huge bits of the manuscript now. We shouldn’t have to rewrite it from scratch either, or even section by section.

But we will have to go paragraph by paragraph tweaking how things are worded and how the language use flows from one sentence to the next.

This is that infamous stage where popular writing advice tells us to find a wall and read out loud to it. The reason is that if we trip and stumble over our own words while trying to read it, then we know where we need to tweak and edit. Also, it forces us to slow down and actually read every word.

At this stage, I like to use a few tools – some of them even at once.

First things first: Show, Don’t Tell

I will rewrite parts of scenes to show more than I tell.

The big reason why is that showing brings the reader into the story like they are actually there while telling a story explains it but doesn’t really give a reader the sense of being there.

I could go into the differences more here but there are numerous resources and doing so would be a blog post to itself.

However, I have two good books to recommend on the subject:

  1. Show, Don’t Tell: How to write vivid descriptions, handle backstory, and describe your characters’ emotions (Writers’ Guide Series) by Sandra Gerth.
  2. Understanding Show, Don’t Tell: (And Really Getting It) (Skill Builders Series Book 1) by Janice Hardy

They’re a great start on getting your readers into the story instead of explaining the story.

Second: Avoid Adverbs and Passive Voice

The first tool is Hemingway, which will grade my writing and pick up when I use too many adverbs.

Or when sentence structure could use tweaking because they could be a bit difficult to read.

A good rule of thumb here is that action scenes should be lower on the reading scale (quick action = short, quick, active sentence structure) and parts of the story that are more relaxed or thoughtful should be higher on the scale.

However, the use of adverbs should be trimmed with better, and more descriptive words, used.

The other thing Hemingway picks up is the use of active or passive voice.

One caveat here: Sometimes passive voice in prose is fine but there is this art to knowing when and where active and passive voice should be used.

Third: Tweak wording using a thesaurus without getting too fancy

To avoid adverbs, I will then swap out wording using a thesaurus but I will double-check that the word I’m swapping in is actually the word I want to use, which is where a dictionary comes in handy.

Unless I know the meaning of the alternate word and know for sure it will work.

Again, my memory is poop and in writing the first draft I will use the first word that comes to mind with a few adverbs to get the point across. However, at this stage, I need to nix the adverbs so having a thesaurus helps me find the word I meant to use that I probably couldn’t remember at the time. I mean, it was at the tip of my tongue…

To Rewrite or Not to Rewrite?

I generally don’t do a complete rewrite here, but I will revise my screenplay based on the book to match up with what I have now.

Again, this helps in honing the dialogue but at this point, things are pretty darn close to being as honed as it will get.

Once I have done my own set of edits to the manuscript, and any revisions, I will compile everything out of Scrivener one last time. All of the research and notes are kept, as is the draft, but now I will create three files.

  1. The Manuscript itself
  2. The Proposal, meant for a publisher or agent, that was created using the updated notes and outline.
  3. The “Bible” for the book which is everything, including characters stats using the roleplaying game of choice, and location notes. The full and complete outline and scene notes using the Active/Reactive states.

These three I compile into Word, Adobe PDF, onto CD-Rom & the cloud with the final Scrivener Project. The Second Draft is printed and bound, with the industry-standard cover page added. The Proposal is also cleaned up, pictures added to make it attractive, and also PDFed and bound at a print shop in full colour. This will be used for marketing and also includes A/B marketing targets and other things a publisher wants to see. That will be the subject of a later post.

For the purposes of this blog post series, we’re more interested in what is happening to the manuscript.

This is where I send the manuscript to a professional editor that specializes in this stage of editing. They are the first independent, and paid, professional to lay their hands and eyes to the project.

They will do what I did but on a professional level and send me their suggestions on what I can do to take my novel to the next level.

I send the proposal to a trusted friend in the publishing industry to tell me if the book I wrote is even marketable (it usually is – I’m equally fussy).

Stylistic Editing with a Professional Editor.

I did mention the editor?

The next few months will be spent with that professional as we go back and forth to hone the style of the prose and dialogue to as close to perfect as possible.

I may have to rewrite a section or two, or even a scene… but usually all I have to do is revise little sections. Some paragraphs get shortened. Others lengthened. Others get the axe.

Once this is done, and we’re both happy (our professional reputations are on the line here), I will read through it one last time and save it, back it up, and even print it.

And then let it rest for a few months.

You will notice that at each stage I let things rest. I find things easier to work on, and I catch more, each time I attack with fresh eyes.

I let another person I trust to read it and give me feedback, tweak it in spots.

But, now, the manuscript is ready for the last stages of editing…


2 responses to “The Writing Process – Part Four – The Second Draft”

  1. Always interested at seeing how others approach the writing process. I myself will rewrite the second draft, since my first draft will be crappier than yours as a pantser. I’m enjoying this series!


    1. I used to be a pantser but I found I was rewriting and tearing things apart too much, not to mention pulling my hair out. I wish I could pants it better, and I’m jealous of people who can, but I write myself into corners too much and end up with Writer’s Block.

      I wouldn’t say my first draft isn’t crappy though. I think, even as an outliner, the first draft is always crappy. That’s kinda universal.


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